“Zhaloba” (“Complaint”) in the 12th-century Kievan Chronicle
“Zhaloba” (“Complaint”) in the 12th-century Kievan Chronicle
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Old Church Slavonic “zhaloba” means both ‘complaint, grief’, and, in terminological sense, ‘petition’. The latter is attested in Rus administrating writing at least from the late 13th and the early 14th centuries. The article aims to clarify the time of the first occurrence of “zhaloba” in that terminological meaning, basing on the 12th-century Kievan Chronicle, which is the South Rus continuation of the Tale of Bygone Years (Povest’ vremennykh let). Both Old Rus and Latin chronicles included primary documents, often not in the form of the direct copies, but as re-written narratives. It is traditionally suggested that the messages of princes and envoys quoted in the Kievan Chronicle reflect the materials from the princely archives. Very little survives from the administrative writing of Southern Rus, but, according to some indirect data, it was developing productively, and chroniclers really worked with documents. Of course, all messages can not be taken at face-value as the copies of primary documents, because there are traces of the usage of bookish sources (chronography, homiletics) in them. However, it seems that in some cases they reflect the influence of administrative writing, including those where the word “zhaloba” occurs. The existing dictionaries omit the contexts of the Kievan Chronicle, taking into consideration only the entries the Tale of Bygone Years s.a. 1100 and the early 13th-century notes of the Novgorodian First Chronicle. Meanwhile, we have three occurrences in the Kievan Chronicle, s.a. 1147, 1148 and 1174, in the descriptions of official princes’ meetings or envoys’ missions, so one can assume that the chroniclers used some contemporary records. The latter were probably edited, that is, affirmed by inner discrepancies and various sets of the favorite words of the Kievan editors. Also, we cannot exclude a possibility that we come across with the chroniclers’ paraphrases or even pure reconstructions, but, even if so, it seems that the scribes imitated the official protocols of their time. Thus “zhaloba” in terminological meaning of ‘petition‘ occurs much earlier than the late 13th century, already in the 12th-century Kievan Chronicle.

About authors
Tatiana Vilkul
Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

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